Sarah Sharp is a songwriter, music supervisor and the lead singer of the Jitterbug Vipers (@jitterbugvipers).
As an occasional music supervisor and a songwriter who has had a lot of song placements in film, TV & ad campaigns worldwide, I get many questions about music licensing. People tell me all the time that their music would be so perfect for film and TV and I always think, “That’s great. What are you doing about it?” Maybe you are surrounded by a team of people who will get that done for you. If so, GOOD FOR YOU!!! If not, there are ways to make your own way.
Over the last decade, I’ve licensed songs through personal relationships with music supervisors & directors, through song placement companies, through selling my songs but keeping the writer royalties with Universal Music Publishing through their FirstCom production music library & from the occasional placement of my own song in a project I music supervised (which is never a given).
My most recent success has been with my duo with Andrea Perry called Kaliyo (Kah-LEE-yo). We’ve had songs used in promos for Chanel, Dell, Macy’s, ABC TV’s "Revenge" and on TV shows not only in the US, but all over the world.
So here are some of my tips:
1. Go to film festivals. Make friends with filmmakers at every level of production & success.
I particularly get excited when I meet editors. Editors will often choose from their personal music library for temp music in their rough edits and often, everyone becomes accustomed to the temp music & it stays. Take a genuine interest in what people are trying to write or get made and help each other on the way up.
I have read my friends’ scripts and given feedback and made them mix tapes of indie artists years before the film finally gets made. The 1st film I music supervised was a Jason Lee, Crispin Glover film called “Drop Dead Sexy”. I probably earned $1/hr by the time it was all said and done for the time I put in, but one of my songs ended up in the film and I have made several thousand dollars in royalties from that one placement. BIG PICTURE.
2. Get a final mix of your entire album with no vocal.
There are a lot of places where the instrumental version of your song can be used. Also, it’s often helpful to be able to comp together both versions around the dialogue. This promo for ABC TV’s "Revenge" used our Kaliyo song "Deep Girl." It barely resembles the full song, but they made great use of it by weaving both the instrumental and vocal version in and around the voice over.
3. Don’t be a pain in the ass and get out of your own way.
Sometimes people get a little whiff of success and they get so caught up in the idea of what could be or worrying about not “getting screwed”, that they blow the whole thing. If someone wants to use your song and you have never placed anything before, just say “YES & THANK YOU.” Reply immediately. Be the easiest, most reliable person to work with on the planet. Have a lawyer read your contract and then just say yes. A really smart and as yet still accessible/affordable music lawyer is Amy Mitchell. Tell her I sent you.
4. If you have a great cover version of a really well-known song, try to get it to the publisher of that song.
Often their hands are tied because they own the song, but the record label owns the really famous master. Some publishers would love to know about a fantastic version of their song that they can actually clear.
5. Quality vs quantity. Less is more.
You are better off with a really well produced EP than a huge library of songs that don’t sound as good as what you are hearing on TV. Don’t send a music supervisor everything you have. They are already inundated. Get their attention with a handful of your BEST recordings and let them know there is more.
6. Fully tag your mp3s with as much metadata as possible.
Title, artist, description… especially important are the copyright info, lyrics and your contact info. I like to use Media Monkey. Then make your mp3s very easily downloadable. You can send the WAV or AIFF when they want to use a specific song.
7. Pay attention to the music palate of TV shows.
Your music is going to be a much better fit for some shows than others. If you have an opportunity to submit to a specific music supervisor, immerse yourself in their shows and choose your songs that would most fit the palate of their show(s).
Sarah Sharp is the lead singer of the Jitterbug Vipers (@jitterbugvipers) and is one half of the songwriting duo Kaliyo, who have had success with song placements in fashion and for film and TV, highlights have been promos for Chanel, Dell, and the shows Revenge, Switched At Birth, and The Lying Game.